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Women in Educational Leadership Symposium is Sept. 22 – 24

By Heather Brandon
BOONE, N.C. – The second annual Women in Educational Leadership Symposium (WIELS) will be held in the Reich College of Education (RCOE) building on the campus of Appalachian State University, Friday, Sept. 22, through Sunday, Sept. 24.

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Symposium speaker Dr. Jane K. Fernandes, president of Guilford College, is the first deaf woman to lead an American college or university. Photo submitted
View larger imageDr. Sharon L. Contreras, superintendent of Guilford County Schools, will also speak at the symposium. Photo submittedWiels Logo

Keynote speakers are Dr. Jane K. Fernandes, president of Guilford College, and Dr. Sharon L. Contreras, superintendent of Guilford County Schools.

WIELS is a partnership between faculty members in the RCOE’s Department of Leadership and Educational Studies and practicing educators. The partnership aims to equip women with pragmatic knowledge, skills and dispositions that prepare them for success as educational leaders.

The symposium theme is “Advancing the Leader Within: Building Capacity.” Participants will have opportunities to learn from and interact with scholars and leaders in education; engage in critical conversations about issues affecting women; meet with mentors to develop action plans; and participate in role-plays related to real world job scenarios.

Fernandes was recognized as one of the 20 most interesting college presidents by The Best Schools, a leading resource for campus and online education. She is in her third year leading Guilford College and its ninth president. In addition, she is the first deaf woman to lead an American college or university.

Fernandes’ goal is to guide Guilford College through curricular and administrative innovation to become further distinguished as a “small liberal arts college of distinction doing a few things splendidly.” She has described three sources of inspiration that fuel pursuit of that vision: the college’s world-class faculty, its powerful Quaker heritage, and its unique commitment to community service and civic engagement. Her higher education administrative career spans 30 years. Before joining Guilford, she served as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

Contreras began her career as a high school English teacher before serving as a principal, area superintendent, assistant superintendent and chief academic officer for school districts in multiple states. In 2011she joined the Syracuse City School District – one of the largest in the state – as the first woman of color in New York State’s history to serve as superintendent. Under her leadership, Syracuse established 16 new career pathways for high school students; opened a school for gifted elementary students; and opened two new high schools to provide students with the opportunity to earn associate degrees in electrical engineering technology, manufacturing technology and health-related fields. Contreras was named superintendent of Guilford County Schools in 2016.

WIELS invites attendees from all sectors involved in educational leadership. Appalachian students are also welcome. The registration fee for Appalachian students is $75 and students must show a valid AppCard at check-in. The registration fee for all others is $150 by Sept 8, or $200 after that date.

To register and learn more about the symposium, visit

Please direct questions to Dr. Precious Mudiwa, WIELS executive director (, or Dr. Roma Angel, WIELS associate executive director (